Lazy Children

Over the ten years or so that I have been an educational psychologist, I have had many children referred to as being lazy.  My work as an independent psychologist working with a number of universities led me to assess numerous adults who had grown up thinking they were lazy.  Over the years I must have had hundreds referred.  A whole sea of lazy children and adults, but the strange thing was that every single one had a specific difficulty of some kind.

An average referral went along these lines:  He is just lazy, he can do the work, but sometimes decides that he just doesn't want to do the work.  A series of detailed questions follow and it seems that there are occasions when the child is very happy to do the work and others when he baulks.  There are occasions when he has worked well and then seems to stop.  What seems to happen then is that threats of punishment are made, or punishments given with more to come.  The child then reluctantly does more work, thus providing proof that he was just being lazy.  All that was needed was the firm smack of teacher discipline and all was well.

How about this for an alternative explanation.  The child is keen and eager to please adults just like any other child.  Writing/reading/planning/spelling or a complex mix or some or all takes huge amounts of cognitive resources. Yes, they can do these tasks, but it takes lots of mental energy; at some point they will be mentally exhausted.  This is not visible like being physically exhausted.  The mentally exhausted child stops work, or more likely slows down, begins to look around, perhaps chat a little.  They get noticed, are warned and warned with threat of punishment, and finally may do some more work.  This is not lazy, but indicative of a specific learning difficulty.

So what do you do now?  An assessment by an Educational Psychologist can highlight the cause of a child's' difficulty. If the cause is a specific learning difficulty, this will probably be identified and ways forward can be planned and implemented.  The emotional damage can cease or lessen, and the child will become much happier and gain in confidence. Skills increase because they are supported appropriately, and to offer appropriate support, the underlying area of need must be better understood.